Sarla Mudgal and Ors. Vs Union of India : AIR 1955 SC 1531


Author: Rajat Shandilya

Case Name : Sarla Mudgal and Ors. Vs Union of India

Citation of the case :  AIR 1995 SC 1531

Court : Supreme Court of India 

Petitioners in the case: Smt. Sarla Mudgal, Meena Mathur, Sunita Narula, Geeta Rani and Sushmita Ghosh

Respondents in the case: Union of India and Others

Date of Judgement: 3rd May 2019.

Names of the Bench: Kuldip Singh J. and R.M .Sahai J.


This judgement is considered to be one of the landmark judgements in the arena of family law. This verdict highlighted the issues of bigamy the conflict between the personal laws existing on matters of marriage and invokes article 44 of Indian Constitution. The judgement is also landmark with the fact that this case in particular highlighted the need for the Uniform Civil Code in the country. This case acted at the he Principal case for three of the other cases. The matter before the Court was that the husbands of the three of the other parties and converted to Islam in order to marry to the other woman without nullifying their first marriage from their wife. The issue before the court was whether the husbands are liable to be punished under section 494 of Indian Penal Code 1860 or not. Another fact in issue before the court was whether the procedure  adopted by the husband to convert into Islam was legal or not.
Facts of the case:

The first petitioner was Kalyani,An NGO that works with needy and distressed women which is headed by Sarla Mudgal. The next petitioner was Meena Mathur who was married to Jitendra Mathur in the year 1988. To Meena's surprise, Jitendra converted to Islam and solemnized is second marriage with Sunita Narula who also later converted to Islam and was better known as Fatima. In this situation Mina complaint that her husband had committed an offence of bigamy punishable under section 494 of IPC. Further in writ petition 424 of 1992, Geeta Rani who was married to Pradeep Kumar alleged physical and mental violence by husband. Geeta Rani later found out that her husband Pradeep eloped and married another woman after converting to Islam in the year 1991. Sunita Ghosh who was the petitioner in civil writ petition number 509 of 1992 married GC Ghosh according to Hindu rituals in the year 1984. A notable thing here is that her husband told her that he wanted to divorce while on the other hand the petitioner argued that she was the legally where did wife. The husband embraced Islam and wanted to marry Vinita Gupta. The petitioner in her petition prayed to not let her husband enter into a marriage with Vinita Gupta. An important aspect to be touch under this writ petition was that section 494 of Indian Penal Code and article 14, 15 and 20 of the Indian Constitution were discussed in detail.

 Issues before the Supreme Court:

 1. Whether Hindu husband, married under Hindu law, by embracing Islam, can solemnise second marriage?

 2. Whether marriage of such nature without having the first marriage dissolved under the law would be a varied marriage qua the first wife who continues to be Hindu? 

3. Whether the apostate husband would be guilty of the offence under section 494 of the Indian Penal Code?

Main arguments advanced by the petitioners:

All the petitioners in this case unanimously laid emphases and argued over the point that the respondents in the case embraced Islam only in order to get evaded from the offence of bigamy which is provided under section 494 of Indian Penal Code.

Main argument from the respondents: 

All the respondents held on to a single contention that once they accept Islam then they can have upto 4 wives even after of having the first wife who is a Hindu by religion and thus they are exempted from the provision of section 494  that lays down the punishment for bigamy under IPC.

The judgement of the case: 

The Honourable Supreme Court in this case held that the first marriage would have to be dissolved under the Hindu Marriage Act. of 1955. The man's first marriage would therefore, still be valid and under Hindu law, his second marriage solemnized after his conversion would be illegal under section 494 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. the court was of the view that all the four ingredients of section 494 IPC was satisfied in the case of a Hindu husband who married for the second time after conversion to Islam he has a living wife and marries again. The marriage in question is void by the reason of its taking place during the life of the first wife. The court therefore, held that the second marriage of a Hindu husband after he converts to Islam is a void marriage under the ambit of of section 494 of IPC. A considerable fact in the judgement is that The Honourable Supreme Court has issued no direction for the implementation of Uniform Civil Code, do Justice Kuldip Singh has requested the government to look into article 44 of the Constitution of India. The apex court further held that the second marriage of the Hindu husband was considered void under section 494 of IPC, in the judgement the judge got into a detailed examination of the case, Kuldip Singh J. while delivering the judgement was of the following view: " when more than 80% of the citizens have already been brought under the codified personal law there is no justification whatsoever to keep in abeyance, any more, the introduction of "Uniform Civil Code" for all the citizens residing in the territory of India.

Referred Precedents:

  1. Re: Ramkumari vs. Unknown (1891)ILR 18 Cal. 264)
  2. Nandi Zainab vs. The crown (ILR 1920 Lahore 440)
  3. Robasa Khanum vs.Khodadad Bomanji Irani[(1946) 48 BOMLR 864]
  4. Mohd. Ahmed Khan vs. Shah Bano Begum (AIR 1985 SC 945)


This judgement can be termed as a historic Judgement in the field of Constitutional and Criminal law. This case also safeguards the rights and dignity of the women by passing out the judgement in their favour. Another important aspect of this judgement that it asked the Government of India to relook towards article 44 of the constitution of India and take necessary steps with regard to the Uniform Civil Code in the country so that everyone can be judged on the basis of same personal laws.